US-Islamic World Forum
Zvonimir Zelic reports on the fourth US-Islamic World Forum:
The middle east is changing. Inept, autocratic secularism is on the run and strident, populist Islamism is on the rise. Across the region, long-disempowered constituencies are finding their voice and demanding an end to repression, occupation, corruption and nepotism. In two key nations, Palestine and Iraq, Islamists have taken power through the ballot-box. Shocked into action by 9/11 and swept along on a surge of neo-conservative conviction, the United States – for so long an unquestioning supporter of Arab authoritarianism – has suddenly and unexpectedly found itself in the paradoxical position of ideological ally to the prospective Islamist democrats.
Against this backdrop, the fourth US-Islamic World Forum convened on 18-20 February 2006 in the plush halls of Qatar's Ritz Carlton hotel, a marble megalith standing curiously isolated from the enormous construction site that is downtown Doha. Participants in the event, which was organised by Washington's influential Brookings Institution, came from a relatively broad geographical and professional spread, with American policy gurus and CEOs sharing floor-space with Pakistani Islamists, Palestinian civil-society activists and other prominent Muslim figures from Senegal to Indonesia. Appropriately, the forum's professed premise was to serve both as "a convening body and a catalyst for positive action", with an emphasis on practicable action rather than dialogue for the sake of it.
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